Thursday, November 30, 2017

3RR is happy to announce that we are now Red Guards Pittsburgh. This name change reflects a step towards ideological and political unity with Red Guards Austin and Red Guards Los Angeles, two of the longest running autonomous Maoist collectives in the United States. 

We reaffirm our guiding ideology as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism. We reaffirm our dedication to build a fighting communism in Pittsburgh as all the Maoist collectives struggle toward greater unity and the eventual creation of the Communist Party, a proletarian Party capable of leading the broad masses in the struggle for revolution - for revolution until communism!

Let's make communism a threat again! 

Lets build the collectives and build the Party!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Black Holes: Speak Bitterly, Boycott Elections

This piece is part of an ongoing debate within this collective, as well the mass organizations we’re involved in, about whether we can electorally transform society in ways that the oppressed need. It is a call for the nonnegotiable necessity of an independent revolutionary movement able to take initiative in long term strategic ways, a movement that has a separate apparatus, identity, program, and agenda than those that are part of the legal left. This means a movement whose defining unity is a profound radical change in society — toward a socialism that is not conceived as “welfare state writ large” or a bit of nationalization, but as a movement with a unified understanding of the need for the deep structural and uncompromising uprooting of empire, national oppression, the inequality of women and non-men, police and prisons, and the exploitation of one human by another. This piece will show what we strive for in the organizing projects, propaganda projects, and theoretical projects our members are involved in as it relates to elections. We encourage communists and non-communists alike to study this and criticize us as part of a living dialogue against strategies that urge us to abandon revolution for the system’s politic of the “real.”  

A black hole occurs when millions of star’s worth of gas gets compressed into a supermassive space that sucks in matter for lightyears around it, depriving the local area of star making material. Eventually, as the star-building material gets locked up in black holes, white dwarfs and other star relics, the galaxy becomes fainter as the massive, short-lived stars wink out and only the long-lived red dwarfs remain. Eventually, these too will fade away, leaving a dead, dark and desolate galaxy filled with nothing but black holes, black dwarfs (White dwarfs that have cooled down) and the occasional cold, dead planet that survived its star’s death. 


The system and its ruling class generally push people, especially the proletariat, out of political life. Then, once every few years, it drops vast sums of money and energy to indoctrinate people in its politics which is the management of the state of affairs. And it mobilizes people temporarily in this ritualized process of electioneering and voting. This arena, and even these local elections here in the working class neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, are not an opportunity for revolutionaries, but one of the least advantageous times for conducting our politics – it is the place and time where revolutionary voices are blown away, and a relentless (and very reactionary!) logic grips. Some “socialists” don’t even feel the need to hide their opportunism, they don’t even feel the need to even imply that they see these sham elections that mean nothing to our class as somehow illegitimate, they explicitly invest money and support in running people for senate or city council, upholding this system, its offices, the constitution, “American democracy,” the due process of this racist lynching court system, the “will of the people,” and so on. Who are those that wish to push us into this black star – which has historically and will today swallow us, if we choose to steer our ship into it?

This goofball bunch of pig apologists, collaborators, NGO poverty pimps, and water carriers for the ruling class have gained momentum since the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle to City Council and Bernie Sanders’ nearly successful securing of the Democratic presidential candidacy. While us, poor people, alienated youth, black people, immigrants (especially the undocumented) become tense when cops arrive into a situation because we know that the police are the enemy. But these “socialists” see a potential Sheriff they can help elect. While we have mothers who warn us that confrontation with the police can lead to death, to swallow pride in front of magistrates and put on passive, non-hostile poker faces to not go to the jail, the Democratic Socialists of America see an excellent opportunity helping one run for office! In Brooklyn there was a DSA candidate for District Attorney in the Democratic primary and there is now a DSA city council candidate who works as a clergy liaison with the NYPD, the “stop and frisk” and mass surveillance police agency. In Pittsburgh we have the endorsement of Mik Pappas by the DSA to be the Magistrate of Garfield, East Liberty, Stanton Heights, Morningside, Upper Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Friendship, and Highland Park.

These neighborhoods are ground zero for urban displacement (what people call “gentrification”) in Pittsburgh, it’s where the smashed ruins of Penn Plaza are at, a housing complex which was sold to LG Realty to be turned into a Whole Foods for the new residents. Pappas’ office is actually located on Penn Avenue, a street in Garfield and Upper Lawrenceville that was once mostly Black, but that now caters to yoga studios, dog wash stores, art galleries, tech incubators, and other gentrifying businesses that aren’t there to suit the needs of the people in the neighborhood. In Pappas’ Magisterial district there was 650 landlord-tenant cases last year alone, data revealing deep economic trauma and abuse by politicians, city planners, developers, bankers, and landlords against the working class.

But will this end, or at least meaningfully mitigate, that trauma? No, we all know it will not. One sees that this politics that advocates a gamble in trauma mitigation is (in essence) liberal and social democratic, not communist and revolutionary. What is harmful though, is the pitch they are making to the revolution-inclined in the neighborhoods, those people who are ready to fight for their lives and for a new society. Its point is, inherently and rather consciously, the liquidation of independent communist work as “ultra left” and the promotion of an illusion that a stage of social democratic activism will create more favorable conditions for radical social change.

Pushing for elections, then, represents the liquidation of any militant anti-gentrification movement. It represents flying into the blackhole, running a campaign as nothing more than part of a immediate social movement protest around immediate demands, with “socialism” as a passing reference. It means never creating a revolutionary situation. What are some examples of elections liquidating militancy? And it’s also easy to talk about the liquidators, but what are the methods of initiating revolutionary struggle and gathering revolutionary forces? 


History has showed that when phony “communists” in the USA entered into elections, it’s been both disastrous and a predictable joke—immediately upon entering the process of supporting ‘progressive’ candidates you enter into a process in which you find yourself supporting the empire, its enforcers, and its illusions. You find yourself arguing that domestic concessions are more important than opposing worldwide murder… and you’ll find yourself exaggerating the differences between different shades of imperialist and pro-police politics. Most important: You spend your time training anyone you meet, influence or lead in bourgeois politics (cut of the pie, budgetary approach to policy, inner-imperialist compromise, imperialist foreign policy, focus on reform at the margins, etc) rather than in proletarian politics. This is, in short, liquidationism—the reformist theory, strategy, and tactics of a capitalist reformist movement infiltrating and overcoming the revolutionary theory, strategy and tactics of a revolutionary communist movement through the latter entering into alignment with the former and thus losing its ability to fight. There are many examples of this in 20th century USA to help us guide our thinking on the question of liquidationism. 

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) supported the Democratic Party—from the inside and outside—since the 1936 Presidential election. It dumped the Trade Union Unity League and other mass worker organizations and marched them into the AFL-CIO. CPUSA became a junior partner within Roosevelt’s New Deal and World War coalition, which allowed it to rise to its greatest size in history – with hundreds of thousands of members – but as the left wing of the Democratic war coalition. It enforced “no strike” pledges in the industries it organized, dropped all pretenses of support for Puerto Rican independence as the “blood tax” (what they called the WW2 draft there) marched them as colonial subjects off to fight, and angrily attacked Communists in Alabama who chose to organize black sharecroppers, as this upset the Klan-affiliated Dixiecrats who were part of Roosevelt’s electoral coalition. For all this pandering and reactionary work, the CPUSA was then discarded and shattered when their good graces no longer served U.S. imperialism in its temporal and opportunistic alliance with the Soviet Union. 

From there the CPUSA still supported Democratic candidates, with the exception of their third party attempt with Henry Wallace after WW2. They would also “run” their own Communist candidates, but mainly as a gimmick, so that their favored “progressive” Democrat could disavow Communist support (“how can you accuse me of association with the Communist Party, they are running someone against me!”)

In the Democratic primaries of 1968, thousands of antiwar college students went “Clean for Gene,” cutting their hair and straightening it. These efforts at first demobilized many people, while conversely, for all things are in contradiction, the 1968 Democratic National Convention showed who the gatekeepers of the Party were – and the riots that followed taught a harsh lesson against trusting in bourgeois elections and politicking. 

But still afterwards quite a few sheepdoggers (i.e. those who gather up the people who drift away from their “rightful” bourgeois leaders”) continued their liquidationist work - for instance Carl Davidson, the Aliquippa DSA water-carrier for the Democrats. Davidson saw the George McGovern campaign in 1972 as an arena for finally pressing through the antiwar victory everyone had been fighting for. Not just liberals, but supposed leftist forces joined into the sheep dogging;, including, for example, Jane Fonda who had famously gone to North Vietnam and made a series of historically important defeatist statements, including in broadcasts to American GIs. More, the Vietnamese Workers Party urged revolutionaries to actively support McGovern. Curiously influenced by that, the Revolutionary Communist Party’s close collaborators in party-building at that time, the Black Workers Congress, was urging McGovern support. The word was put out (deceitfully) that “The Vietnamese are losing the war” — and that if we didn’t support McGovern, they might suffer a military collapse. This, again, caused considerable disorientation and confusion.

So where was the DSA during this? Its leader Michael Harrington was at first to the right of even Carl Davidson. As author of “The Other America,” the forces that grouped around Harrington were greatly encouraged by the rise of Lyndon Johnson to the U.S. presidency, especially with his attempt to formulate a “Great Society” of new social programs (wedded to the voting rights act), as a response to the struggles of black people for liberation.  

The excitement over the liberal “domestic agenda” made the democratic socialists scared of the new antiwar movement, which had started during Kennedy’s opening of intervention in Vietnam. They used the rebating excuse of “communists” in the antiwar movement to take a distance. Today, funny enough, DSA members are still barred from being “a member of a Leninist organization,” just as back then they were wedded to an old and very reactionary 1950s policy of refusing to work in any coalition that included “the Stalinist totalitarians,” since (they argued) such a movement would not have any credibility in the USA. This was opportunism, considering that what they cared more about was seeking sympathy and possible allies in ruling class circles than the construction of an independent proletarian politics.

Michael Harrington’s intuitive sympathy for Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Humphrey meant that the democratic socialists were MIA in the creation of the greatest anti-imperialist movement in U.S. history (and it meant that, as a trend, they were not able to build themselves a new political current out of the 1960s revolutionaries even though the ground was as fertile for their trend as it was for others). 

Later the DSA was instrumental in backing Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. Using a lot of self-deception and ignoring the dangers of again tailing liberal electoral campaigns, the DSA again never learned and walked into the wolfs den. Jackson then worked ruthlessly to dismantle (shatter!) those forces that had grouped around him, precisely so they could not operate as an independent force. How could he broker his career as a fixture within the Democratic Party if he allowed anything “independent” to operate? The aftermath of Sanders’ defeat, of which the DSA has done little summation or analysis, also showed a similar process of dismantlement, with an emphasis on a “political revolution” around supporting Hillary that came after.

These all should be raised as the cautionary tales they are. Analogies are difficult, and Bernie Sanders (for many reasons) will never simply be "today’s Lyndon Johnson" — even as he now emulates him in some ways by voting to escalate Trump's Afghan war and aggression towards Korea. While this history should  underscore the importance of opposing the U.S. government (whoever sits in the seats of power), and developing a revolutionary communist movement with real and proletarian independence from bourgeois machinations, initiative, and a public radical critique of the capitalist system itself, the DSA will continue smashing its head on the pavement, continuing Harrington’s tradition of being fascinated with the “domestic agenda” of liberals-in-power, and an ambivalent or paralyzed and paralyzing stand toward their attacks against the people. 

When the social democrats, in this ambivalence, do not take a stand with the masses, it will prove forever unforgivable. The masses are watching. History is watching. These false socialists and their so-called progressive candidates will inevitably commit crime after crime against the people and their revolutionary initiative, and it will be necessary to resist their influence if we do not wish to capitulate totally to liquidation.


Freidrich Ebert, The Bern, and Mik Pappas

What then, is the path forward? Must we reinvent the wheel again, trying and failing to push progressive change through bourgeois politics? No, we say instead that we must make revolution, which is necessarily an illegal act. And moreover, we know that regardless of how kind-hearted or progressive an individual member of the ruling class may be (including a judge we helped elect, hoping for mutual back-scratching on that account), they will ultimately use both sugar-coated bullets (pandering, redirection of militant energy, and more) and real bullets to stop the masses from making revolution. 

But because the revolutionary road may be difficult to grasp, because it is hard to imagine now in this environment of defeatism, dispassion, and disconnection from the masses, the legal left endlessly defers the question of revolution until such a time as our forces are “strong enough” or even sees revolution as part of a process of accumulating reforms within the system until some vague “socialism” is reached. It’s telling that such a deferral of revolutionary action never takes the form of actually building up fighting capacity, but instead engages in tailing trade unions, electioneering, organizing vigils and toothless demonstrations.

Bernstein, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) who was an opponent to more revolutionary enemies, said that talk of fighting was old-fashion as reforms would pave the way over time to socialism:

“All the speeches of the [SPD's] representatives breathe reform…the social democrats [at that time the term meant communist––it wasn't until after Bernstein and Kautsky that it became a slur for welfare capitalist ideology] formed an alliance with the middle-class democracy for the municipal elections, and their example was followed in other Wurtemberg towns.  In the trade union movement one union after another proceeds to establish funds for out-of-work members, which practically means a giving up of the characteristics of a purely fighting coalition… Everywhere there is action for reform, action for social progress, action for the victory of democracy.”

Bernstein imagined that the reforms he passed was the same as revolution, when all it was doing was liquidating the movement there and leading to collaboration with fascism to quell those who stepped out of rank. Similar statements come from those on the legal left today – including the DSA. 

Because social democratic politics refuses to break from bourgeois legality, from campaigning for someone who they hope will crush the people slightly less due to his innate kindness and legal understanding of how the criminal justice system works, they set the stage for when this innate kindness becomes trumped by the material conditions, the driving forces of capitalism. Kindness cannot stand up to market forces.

In this context, all these reformist promises that the DSA present will be dashed to pieces when Pappas turns on militant anti-gentrification and tenant struggle committee activists, on Communists, on tenants, and on workers, just as it was dashed to pieces when the Freikorps murdered Luxemburg and Liebknecht when Bernstein’s SPD, embedded as it was in electoral practice, had called upon and permitted these assassinations. Corpses speak the need to break, consciously and decisively, from the black hole of bourgeois legality and politics to build an actual communist movement. 


How do we break from this disastrous road and build up our fight capacity, our class’ independent fighting capacity, over and against the insistence from the DSA and other reformist forces that such a break is premature, disastrous, and ultra-left? Such a break involves the development of independent organizations through armed struggle and revolutionary violence primarily, along with “legal” methods secondarily and subordinated to the formation of a fighting, militant Party, all derived from mass participation and the development of militant and communist leadership from among the masses. Such a break also means uniting and struggling with the “left wing” of social democratic parties and organizations, as good people can be in bad political projects, and as social democratic, reformist, and legalist organizations can nevertheless contain some elements of “spontaneous” mass character. 

A revolutionary movement must first be unified theoretically and practically, and it needs to step outside of those institutions that are apparatuses of the bourgeois state. This must mean it must break from the very style of organizing that is limited by bourgeois legality. This must mean it has to develop three magic weapons, and it must do so concentrically through working class struggles and from within our neighborhoods themselves—these weapons are the revolutionary Party, the People’s Army, and the United Front. These weapons do not arise spontaneously in the process of working within institutions or projects beholden to capitalism, of being a paid staffer for a union or nonprofit, or of a campaign for a “progressive” candidates. They will only arise through the conscious combination legal and illegal methods, to prepare and strengthen those we live among the masses for confrontation with the enemy. 

This means organizing the masses in “speaking bitterness,” which was the process by which the masses in China demanded, through popular committees, that overthrown landlords answer for their crimes. Speaking bitterness was and is about the development of common campaigns and actions which serve to create legitimized and accountable new systems of political command and authority. This a demand for confrontation which is material and real to the oppressed, that shows how our movement “represents” (and communicates) in ways that are beyond words, and that enter the realm of action. While we need a new written program and must tap people into macro questions of how society works, people  often think at first about power and change on the micro scale, i.e. in ways that is immediate and material to them.

There are many ways into which the representation of “speaking bitterness” enters into our tactics, which are subordinated to a larger strategy of war, of moving the fight from the housing project to downtown. This may mean organizing struggle committees and tenants committees which confront landlords. This may mean organizing an illegal strike. This may mean targeting a well known and hated oppressor within the neighborhood, not just through art and propaganda, but through leading and announcing an attack on an enemy. In Turkey, for example, the DHKCP (“the People’s Front”) is a Party with considerable influence in Küçük Armutl, a working class neighborhood near downtown Istanbul, to the point that the police only enter it in armored trucks, which are most often met with paint bombs, rocks, and Molotov cocktails. The gangs that would sell heroin in the neighborhood were often connected with the “land mafia,” a group of developers unafraid of using illegal methods of bulldozing with no notice and forced eviction without due process; these gangs murdered a member of DHKCP who had demanded one of their dealers quit selling. The neighborhood was mobilized and responded by setting fire to the drug dealer’s home, chasing him out. 

In Boyle Heights, a Chicanx and Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles that is also facing mass displacement, revolutionary Maoists organizing in Serve the People-Los Angeles and in Defend Boyle Heights mobilized the neighborhood against gentrifying art galleries. As part of this coalition they organized an un-permitted march, and signed and delivered eviction notices from the neighborhood by the order of the people of Boyle Heights, pasting them on the side of the buildings. Many art gallery owners who were stupid enough to come outside to confront the masses, in other similar actions, faced the wrath of the people. At one point, an unknown rightfully pissed member of the neighborhood graffitied “Stop White Art” on the front of one of the art galleries, which the racist LAPD chose to investigate as a hate crime. Pickets which have faced significant police harassment go on till today outside of a new coffee shop. These tactics have rightfully been named as “guerrilla” in nature, and commercial real estate developers see gentrification been carried out to its full fruition “eventually…but slower in pace” as a result of these tactics of moving the people to speak bitterness.

Those who focus on elections may be afraid to be near those who speak bitterness. Through the development of the class struggle, they’d be forced to acknowledge that armed struggle and revolutionary violence is the primary expression by which our class speaks, that phone-banking and door-knocking for candidates does not turn the masses active communists and rulers of a new society. To acknowledge this – that the masses learn revolution only by being revolutionarily – would be disastrous to their worldview, which sees “revolution” as a series of milquetoast reform struggles, not as militant refusals to abide by bourgeois legality. This pushing for people to vote, or to become members of a union, or any other series of legalist political orientations will not make revolution, for revolution is not made through gradually adding reforms until enough quantity produces a change in quality, as if by the stroke of Hegel’s pen.

4.2 Steps In Speaking Bitterness and the Potential Of Failure

To get to a point of organizing the people to “speak bitterness” we must first be where the people are actually at, physically and ideologically. If we are from alien class backgrounds, we take up proletarian jobs to demolish soft academic thinking and individualist pursuits of gluttonous luxury. We live among them and participate in their struggles, and in doing so, offer them guidance while also learning from them. This is defined by serving the people, as all communists should do. From beginning to participate in their struggles we find the most “advanced,” and it’s important to note the advanced doesn’t mean those with the most political know-how or even necessarily who the most ‘active’ are, but those that know intuitively that capitalism and white supremacy cannot be reformed or voted out. This is the case even if they use problematic language or if they don’t instantly know all the theory that more privileged people can easily grasp –their own ideas around explicit proposals of action and thoughts on relevant questions are the raw material that make speaking bitterness possible, so they should be collected.

There is potential of making an error of confirmation bias in mis-identifying the advanced, as we can’t possibly immediately know everyone in a whole neighborhood instantly. This error can be prevented in many ways. First, it’s important to develop actual links through living and forming relationships with our neighbors, hopefully all of them through time, so that we can become more understanding of all experiences, class backgrounds, and level of class consciousness. In doing this we avoid errors of discovering who the most militant leaders are, as our interactions are just a small part of a total working class neighborhood and the social matrix by which one advanced worker exists. While college ethnographers and social workers are in our neighborhoods within a limited timeframe, the microscope in which they examine working people’s day-to-day lives happens within a short time horizon – we on the other hand understand our agitation as long term, as these neighborhoods will experience oppression (and resistance!) that happens over a long cycle of time. 

By taking these steps of avoiding premature and preemptory analysis, the advanced and their ideas can be consolidated into mass organizations and communist leadership – in other words, their raw material becomes concentrated in order to be given expression. With speaking bitterness being the physical action, the experiment of seeing if the collected ideas of the masses push steps forward in this protracted revolutionary process, the concentration and processing of such ideas, are the planning of this battle, the abstracted hypothesis by which this experiment happens. The two errors that can occur during this stage—no participation from the masses, or only generating a short-term victory without building revolutionary forces—become obvious only after the third stage, as we find only through the product of this popular expression of speaking bitterness if the ideas of the masses were collected sufficiently and if those ideas once synthesized actually push towards revolution.

The aforementioned third and final stage is the advanced mobilizing, winning over the intermediate, and actually moving to articulate their speaking bitterness. Here in Pittsburgh this three-pronged process is engaged in through 33R members’ participation in Serve the People-Pittsburgh (STP-Pgh), a revolutionary community organization that provides direct material aid to the working class in the form of organizing neighborhood BBQs, naxolone trainings, as well as children’s clothing and mattress drives. While initially based on the Northside, 3RR members have developed the most mass contacts in Garfield. In this neighborhood where the costs of rent is rising, many are facing eviction because of the urban displacement spurred by art spaces, bars, and cultural boutiques along Penn Ave and Butler St. This is leading to the initiation of tenant struggles where the people are mobilized against slumlords.

While we’d like to take time to discuss these experiences in detail, we instead urge those who follow 3RR to prepare for a 6 month summation of the work STP-Pgh has done so far, which will show the success that this process provides. 

4.3 “A Change in the Sky”: Guerilla Tactics Applied to Mass Organizing

When notorious oppressors are brought to justice when the people speak bitterness, this signals a “change in the sky.” This is a moment when the revolutionary consciousness of the people is broadened and deepened through this confrontation, even if this confrontation does not result in an immediate victory for those involved. Some anarchists, frustrated with the opportunism of the reformists and passioned by their fully justified moral outrage at the state, see the process of building consciousness as an endless series of physical confrontations, regardless of whether an action has a mass character or not. Lenin pointed out correctly, “to accept battle at a time when it is obviously advantageous to the enemy, but not to us, is criminal; political leaders of the revolutionary class are absolutely useless if they are incapable of ‘changing tack, or offering conciliation and compromise’ in order to take evasive action in a patently disadvantageous battle.” On the other hand, Gonzalo says when asked about the orientation of communists towards the spontaneous, and perhaps doomed, uprisings of the masses: “In those circumstances, we would do what Lenin  did: tell the masses that this is not the moment, but if the masses launch an insurrection, fight along side them, so that together we can make an orderly retreat… And if we die with them, our blood will be merged with theirs to a greater extent”. 

We must apply protracted people’s war to our conditions as so. This reliance on and unity with the masses is the military science of our class that gives us an understanding of how to defeat our enemies. 

Simply put, our guerrilla tactics are based on “tactics, ten against one; strategy, one against ten.” The landlords we confront are protected by an effective executive centre which commands various subordinate state apparatuses, but the hegemony of such coercive/military forces are often overstated. This does mean that, even when our work becomes violent or involves the threat of violence, we are unable to (immediately!) hope to have base areas, but that through treating every mass action as a school of war, we are connecting even moments of securing the best possible compromise for the working class to promoting the development of new political structures within which the masses can be drawn into active participation in this war. 

While we could continue to go into detail about urban strategy, suffice it to say here this process of navigating the terrain of class struggles and understanding the contradictions which are likely to precipitate the next crisis all stem from a policy of “hasten and wait” (where we both hasten in our work and await changes in the objective situations that allow the seizure of overall power). This is, first and foremost, protracted, meaning it develops over a period of time. There is a right opportunist trend within Maoism and within certain revisionist ML tendencies that does not take this long term perspective, and sees credence only in insurrectionism, which means that rather than building base areas and an underground resistance movement, we engage in a semi-permanent mode of legal and reformist organizing, until a moment in which there is magically a transfer of power due to the defection of the decisive element of the armed forces of the existing state to the side of the revolution, e.g. October 1917 in Russia. Hoping to inherit the great vacuum created by an implosion of the executive organs of the state and consequent lack of coordination between parts of the repressive apparatus is the equivalence of communist astrology or chakra aligning; such a strategy does not even follow from how the Russian revolution went down.

In our hastening we will draw the ire of revisionists and reformists alike, who will paint us in the darkest colors. 

4.4 Reformist Conservationism, Or Treating the Masses As an Endangered Species

While the masses have never been afraid of using violence to secure their lives through “unsafe” self-defense, resistance, or attack, the dominant practice of liberal “anti-oppression” politics demands that we relinquish power to political representatives like the ones the legal left has supported. A vast nonprofit industrial complex and a strata of professional “community spokespeople” come to define the parameters of acceptable political action and debate. The politics of “safety” emphasized, for example, in the Homewood March (3RR’s “Fight, Bleed, Win Among the Masses”) and at the counter protest outside of Planned Parenthood, is not new here in Pittsburgh, seeing that NGOs and the legal left must continually project an image of powerlessness and keep communities of color, women, and queers “protected” and confined to speeches and mass rallies rather than speaking their bitterness to their most hated oppressors. “White allyship” is demanded, as if oppressed communities are a single, homogenuous political bloc where there is a single unified anti-racist, feminist, and queer political program which the legal left can become “allies” of. This politics is fundamentally conservative, silencing, and coercive.

In one sense, the people of the communities we organize in are treated by contemporary liberal anti-oppression discourse (“identity politics,” as its pejoratively labeled) as a place akin to a habitat of endangered species which is in need of management by those “political representatives” that are assigned to contain the potential of class conflict at all costs. The legal left understands power as something which is granted or bestowed by the powerful. Appeals to institutional benevolence runs in contradiction to their supposed understanding of capitalism, which is that a Mik Pappas cannot act and take power for himself on behalf of the masses. So while we continue to live very “unsafe” lives, DSA and others continue to advocate for us to dance, to perform an image of legitimate victimhood for white middle class consumption. Rather than engaging in revolutionary violence that works, we are policed and scolded, told that our activities will be barely recognized by this audience unless we eat shit, and play the role of peaceful and quaint undeserving victims rather than survivors who will fight for what they need using any means necessary – and not through voting and patient waiting. 

How do we resolve this harmful triplicate of NGOism, electoral politics, and respectability in the coming month, as elections near? 


These elections and the system it legitimizes were not made for us. 

The magistrate court at 1742 Morningside Ave is a body which hosts the horrific farewell parties of the displaced, a kangaroo tribunal of the ruling class against the evicted and the wrongfully arrested. Pappas and the DSA act like David Blaine, promoting an illusion that they can subvert the economics of real estate, that they can suavely soothe the contradictions between the people and the pig, to bring out a ‘better deal’ for the people. We all know that magic and David Blaine, in spite of how astonishing his tricks can appear to be on surface, are fake, and what must follow is that without power outside of the courts, all is an illusion as well! 

Most working class people already engage in a mass election boycott—what we call a passive boycott, in that those who do vote do not do so for reasons that are immediately and primarily political. We will, in our revolutionary work today and later, work to turn this passive boycott into an active one. An active boycott is the strategy that turns that boycott into an explicitly political act. This means:

1. Disseminating popular propaganda and cultural forms explaining the illegitimacy and ‘revolutionary’ impotence of those candidates running 

2. Pointing the way forward through connecting the struggle against the exploiters in the neighborhood with those running in the sham elections themselves 

3. Not allowing volunteers and campaign organizers to safely push reformism where organizing is occurring. Encouraging the masses to act against them, to remove signs, and to confront candidates as an attempt to delegitimatize them. Generally to make where we live uncomfortable for them to enter. If the masses wish to vote, it’s important to note that there is no stopping them and there should be no compulsion or guilting them for doing so. Telling them truths and providing guidance allows them to understand our line as correct when post-election disappointment kicks in 

4. Continuing to sharpen contradictions on the tenant and anti-gentrification front

Leave the march down the black hole; we have a revolution to build! Smash or sabotage the voting machines, rip Costa and Pappas signs down, and slam the door on the campaign volunteers that have come to harass and mislead the masses!  

Without power all is an illusion! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fight, Bleed, Win Alongside the Masses!

A summation of Three River Red’s formation of an armed partisan unit and Red Bloc in unity with Pittsburgh antifascists and the Pittsburgh masses

"Individuals do not set the course of events; it is the social force." --- F. W. Lawvere

In the struggle against capitalism and fascism our duty as revolutionary communists is to unite wholeheartedly and completely with the masses and take up the ideas of their most advanced elements, synthesize them with revolutionary theory, and put them into practice in the streets: in a phrase, the mass line method of leadership.

Following the inaugural successes of the mass organization Serve The People-Pittsburgh, as well as our formation of an armed red partisan unit positioned against fascist threats in Larimer at the request of local community members, we believe that it is time to issue a summation of our work and, in an inchoate sense, to synthesize our scientific analysis of militant and mass-based politics in Pittsburgh. 

Introduction to the Communist Understanding of Fascism

Like a serpent rising from the grasses of the status quo of imperialist aggression abroad and national oppression at home, fascism is getting organized in America. At first emboldened and hopeful for Trump and his Republican cronies, they are now disillusioned and feel the need for a new explicitly fascist party to push their genocidal policies. In this context, the “Unite the Right” rally was called for Charlottesville, Virginia on the 12th of August. Hundreds and hundreds of fascists descended on Charlottesville and were met by the inspiring resistance of communists, anarchists, socialists, and members of the masses. When the tide of the roving street battles and armed standoffs turned in the favor of the people, the fascist enemy struck with terrorism, martyring the now immortal Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others.

This is the face of fascism — mass death and brutalization at the hands of a corporatist state intent on crushing all forms of revolutionary agitation and thus smoothing over the inherent contradictions of capitalist society.

One week after this brutal attack on the masses, the fascists called for a “free speech” March on Google in 9 cities including Pittsburgh, as Google had recently fired a man for writing an anti-woman, sexist tirade. Free speech is an empty slogan, a shell of an ideology, as fascism parasitically takes what it can from the dominant ideologies in order to push its poison on the people.

The Place of Communists in the Struggle Against Fascism

We must struggle to make communism a threat again, a threat enough to make the enemy fear us, to fear the people, but also to inspire the masses to take up the red banner and lead with it. We fight for the day when the masses wield communism and communists as a tool, a weapon, to reshape the world and thus sate their great hunger for bread, for joy, and for blood.

The masses must be with us every step of the way to socialism — communists are both led by and are leaders of the people, this is called the dialectic of the mass line method of leadership. If the masses attack the enemy, even if they are outmatched, we fight side by side with them, and if our blood mingles with theirs for it, all the better.

As revolutionary communists we call progressive everything that builds up the Party and the fighting capacity of the masses along the road to People’s War. Everything regressive and reactionary stands in the way of this forward march. Of course the status quo of the bourgeois state, based in white supremacist settler-colonialism, is thus regressive and reactionary, and we see its true face daily as this liberal democracy maintains its racialized and gendered caste system through police murders of black people and indigenous people, sexist terrorism, the creeping, bloated prison system, red-lining, other oppressive hiring and housing practices, etc. But fascism is a singular threat.

What is fascism? It is the last instance of bourgeois democracy, its natural tendency and end-point. Fascism is a state of exceptional terror used to smother, to obscure the contradictions of capitalist society. It is corporatism maintained through an absolute and nihilistic death machine which takes what it must from culture to build its supporting ideology — “Buy American”, MAGA, blood and soil, reclaiming a supposedly-threatened whiteness and purity.

Fascism must be crushed before it takes root in the fertile soil of the American status quo. And it must be crushed by the masses, by the full weight of the revolutionary people. Fascism is not a matter best left to white folks, like some embarrassing feud within “the family” that needs to be settled by the good white allies. It is a force that, if it takes full power, will first kill the communists, then the anarchists and liberal-left and the organized masses (union leaders, feminist leaders, etc), and will then be free to set about corralling and murdering and (re-)enslaving oppressed peoples.

The fascists have their own totalized understanding of society; if we are to defeat them, so must we.

Before the Formation of the Partisan Unit: The Kingsley Association Meeting

The Google Headquarters in Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square, a gentrified blight in the black neighborhood of East Liberty bordering the black neighborhoods of Homewood, Larimer, and Garfield. The threat of white supremacists, fresh from tasting blood in Charlottesville, rallying in East Liberty and so close to multiple other working class black communities rightly inspired disgust, outrage, and fear from the masses in Pittsburgh.

Responding to these feelings, black women leaders called a meeting to discuss a community-led response to the “alt-right”, crypto-fascist March on Google. The meeting took place in the Kingsley Association in Larimer a few days before the planned March.

The March on Google organizers officially cancelled the event just before the community meeting, citing phony threats from the “Alt-Left” — including spinning around the threat made by a fascist to drive his truck into members of the masses Saturday. Fascists are cowards, and know what would happen to them if they showed up in the black working class neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, but the meeting organizers and the broad masses both understood the need to organize a response regardless of whether the fascists showed up or not.

The Black Femme Excellence Co., Sisters PGH, Black Brilliance Collective, and the Movement for Black Lives spearheaded the event, asking black folk and black community members in particular to speak first and white folk to speak last and “stay in their lane”. The plan, as put forward by the leaders, was to figure out if there would be a “response” to the March, and if so, what form this response would take.

The meeting opened with the leaders reporting to the community their conversations with the Pittsburgh police regarding the planned March and multiple terroristic threats the leaders and the black masses of Pittsburgh in general had received from fascists since Charlottesville. The police, as is expected, relayed that the “antifascists and counter-protestors” were the main threat to public order in the city.

Next a man spoke on “safety”, which turned out to be an impassioned speech on the history of white supremacist violence in the United States and the forms of resistance violent and non-violent both which must be taken up to crush it. “There will be sticks, there will be shields, there will be teargas and guns”. The masses responded enthusiastically to this talk, apparently fired up and subjectively ready to crush any fascists foolish enough to display their colors in East Liberty the upcoming Saturday.

Other members of the black masses spoke of the need to crush white supremacy not just in its fascistic form but also in its everyday, status quo form of grinding violence and oppression in service to the American racialized caste system in which we all live and, to various degrees, suffer. One man said he was a part of a group of 30 or so black men who “like to exercise their First and Second Amendment rights just as much as these white people do”. The tenor of the meeting was clear — the masses were ready for militant confrontation with the enemy.

The leaders of the meeting then held a straw poll asking if the masses wanted to organize a counter-demonstration against the planned March on Google. A resounding majority voted “Yes”. At this point, one of the leaders cut off the cheering to elaborate: “We don’t mean an actual counter-demonstration”, though this is precisely the term they used, “but a counter-narrative formation” to showcase the pride and resilience of the black communities of Pittsburgh. The plan apparently had already been formed before the community meeting to avoid entirely Bakery Square and instead hold a black-led pride march through Homewood and Wilkinsburg.

The masses were at first confused - what the hell is a “counter-narrative formation”? Then they were shocked, then outraged. No confrontation with the fascists, just a post-modern wrestling over “narratives”. The organizers explained that white people would be sent to Bakery Square to confront the fascists while black people would stay safely far away — white bodies to the front lines of the fight while black voices were allowed to speak elsewhere.

This discourse of bodies divorced from voices and of narratives divorced from struggle is a post-modern conceptualization of activism and mutual self-defense. This was disappointing, but communists must rely on and have faith in the masses, and the militant mood of the masses in the meeting was inspiring and showed us that the people were ready to fight and through that fighting, learn leadership: we had to be at their side with the red banner, pointing the way down the long road to liberation ahead of us.

The Spokes Council Meeting

Two days after the Larimer meeting, a group of communist, anarchist, unionist, and anti-fascist organizations met to discuss safety precautions for the Homewood march and direct confrontation with any fascists who may show up Saturday.

If an ember is kept burning a fire can start again. The spokes council meeting was sadly a continuation of the firefighting done by the organizers at the Larimer meeting. Though many revolutionaries were present, it seemed the direction of the wind was being blown into a rightward direction. 

In the facilitation of the meeting, an emphasis was put on the Black Femme Excellence Co. et al’s line throughout the meeting. Many in the legal left in Pittsburgh are paid staff of the ruling class in NGOs, etc. and conceive of “revolution” as filling in the potholes of the capitalist road. It was correctly emphasized however, even by the legal lefts, that in spite the cancellation of the anti-Google march there was still potential for the fascists to show up. 

When specific details related to logistics started to be hashed out, the legal left facilitator said that the Black Femme Excellence Co. organizer wanted the counter protestors to have no “t-shirts, bandanas, banners,” that didn’t “specifically feature a Black organization” or black struggle The facilitator also said, in a remark that would later come back to bite them in the ass, that we shouldn’t “dress conspicuously [as anti-Fascists],” that we “shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves,” and that “we should avoid masking up.” Another person in the room even suggested that we come dressed in business suits, as would look more elegant and respectable than they did! 

This line put the immediate security of our movement at risk and completely negated the role that Black working class people from the neighborhood would play in directly combatting the fascists and building revolution, both that weekend and in the future. The dominant revisionist-capitalist-liberal ideology of “business as usual” had to be called out—a cadre brought criticism to them – “the way you are talking, you are acting like revolution is only reserved for white people!” It was made clear that such ludicrous directions would not be followed and that the masses outside of this room of activists should be mobilized to target these hated oppressors on Saturday, the day of the action.   

Saturday: Unleash Mass Militancy, Build Proletarian Dual Power!
A photograph taken by a member of the masses. Their caption: "WTF is going on??"

At the request of the Homewood pride march organizers and in tactical unity with militant antifascist organizations in Pittsburgh, Three River Reds (3RR) deployed an armed partisan unit and Red Bloc composed of 3RR cadre,mass members, and supporters to protect Larimer and Homewood from fascist incursion.

The thirst of the masses to lead a militant response to the resurgent Klan/Nazi alliance was tangible on Saturday; contrary to the expectations of some of Pittsburgh's activist circle, members of the masses who had not been reached by the organizers of the Homewood action came to Bakery Square armed and ready for combat. Many expressed disappointment that they and other members of the black/New Afrikan masses in Larimer and Homewood had not been included in the armed defense units, which turned out to be largely white.

One person asked, "Why aren't black people out here?" Another person showed one of our cadre the firearms which he had acquired to fight fascism in Pittsburgh. These and our many other interactions with community members on Saturday revealed the advanced revolutionary line which the masses of Pittsburgh are already taking up, miles in advance of the “counter-narrative formation" line which was represented by the NGO/activist cliques.

A strategic failure on our part was the initial lack of signs and slogans expressing our intentions in Larimer; this led to some confusion among the masses as to whether we were an antifascist defense unit or a detachment of the fascist militia. Though we were able to defuse this problem in an immediate sense by making signs and by engaging sincerely with the masses, we will rectify our practice in the future by coming prepared with signs, by engaging in mass work and the propagation of revolutionary anti-fascist ideas, and most importantly, by incorporating more oppressed-nations comrades as cadre and mass members.

The Day of the Action

Upon the Red Bloc and Partisan unit’s arrival at the site of the proposed (but cancelled) anti-Google march site at Bakery Square in East Liberty, where the arch-gentrifier Google company building was located at, communists, anarchists and anti-fascists of all stripes were already starting to stream in. Curiously but unsurprisingly absent were the inheritors of the American Revolution, the hard-ass homesteaders, the wild west heroes, the men’s rights activist basement dwellers, and other neo-Nazi and white supremacists who talked up a good game on the Internet but couldn’t seem to be courageous enough to leave their keyboards. However, Walnut Capital (one of the big real estate capitalists in Pittsburgh) had brought in the other white supremacist big boys—a SWAT unit, six mounted police officers, six motorcycle police, six to eight police posted with binoculars in the parking garage adjacent to the building, and several on-foot officers. Signs reading “No guns/No Knives/No Weapons of Any Kind” were placed all around the property of the building, which seemed to stretch outside of the interior of Bakery Square to all adjacent properties, from Trader Joes to the tall ugly gentrifier apartments. The Red Bloc and Partisan unit and its antifascist comrades received requests from the Black Brilliance Rally organizers to be prepared to not let any fascists into the neighborhood of the Rally and pride march. So the groups were posted at the entryways closest to Bakery Square. 

The presence of armed revolutionaries inspired mixed reactions from the masses but was largely welcomed – it was one of mostly passive support in the form of car honks and thumbs up and raised fists from people driving through the neighborhood. Three mover workers stopped their truck and held up traffic to talk to us. Those who stopped at the intersection excitedly put down their windows to talk about what we were doing. At one point towards the end, a revolutionary couple from the neighborhood who showed up concealed carrying asked to take pictures with us, and talked to us about the importance of everyone being armed for self defense against fascists and police. 

But there was a sizable amount of confusion on the part of the masses as well. While those in the bloc and the partisans defied the suggestions of the Spokes Council and the organizer by choosing to wear the flag of the toiling masses as their bandanas, the lack of propaganda in the form of banners and tshirts which would act as a representation of our politics had a noticeable negative effect. Because those within the bloc did not conduct mass work in the area, and because the organizers did not alert the masses there to the purpose of our presence, the optics of our presence was bewildering at best and horrifying at its worse. 

One man from Homewood came up and was Facebook Live streaming, saying he was ready “to fight us” before he realized that we “weren’t the Klan,” saying that people on Facebook confused us for the fascists themselves. Because the organizers of the response to the presence of fascists in East Pittsburgh chose to demobilize the masses from defending their own neighborhood, any active support came from the independent initiative of the masses themselves, most who came with the intention of initially confronting us. This is precisely because of the online rumor and hearsay described above.

As the rally came towards the close three members of the masses rolled up, angry as hell. “Where the fuck are all the other Black people? Why aren’t any of the people who are honking stopping to come fight?” One member of the Red Bloc started explaining the organizers requests at the Kingsley Association—and was interrupted by a liberal who stood in front of this activist: “…this was an event organized by Black femmes who wanted white bodies here to defend the Black communities where the Black Pride [Black Excellence March and Rally] is occurring.” The man angrily retorted them, “What the fuck are you talking about? East Liberty is OUR neighborhood! It shouldn’t just be white people out here with guns!” 

The verdict was in – why were forces split? Why was combating fascists relegated to only ‘white bodies’? If fascists did show up in large numbers, this could have been a potentially deadly situation.

Aftermath: Why Mass Work Is Important

The confusion caused what could have been a dangerous fallout. The capitalist media mischaracterized one of the open carriers, who was depicted without a mask on, as an “apparent alt-right demonstrator.” While one could easily say this confusion was caused by the legal left leaders of the Spokes Council or by the organizers of the pride rally (who certainly did not help in dividing the anti-Fascist camp, by not encouraging revolutionary organizing, and by telling people to engage in bad security culture), this is ultimately our failure of not having a mass perspective and of not engaging in mass line work and agitation in the (admittedly very few) days we had before the proposed alt-right march. 

So what the hell is the mass line?

One of the most important contributions of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) is that it offers a mechanism of building revolution wherever you are, and this method is known as the “mass line.” It works like this: we recognize that the traumas and stress that this system gives our class is located at all the various spaces in our life. It’s where you're sweating over paying rent at the end of the month. It’s where your wages are being stolen. It’s down the street from your house at the corner store when the pig pulls a gun on you. In other words, it’s where we work, live, and play—it’s in our neighborhoods. 

Revolutionaries should not enter into situations with a ready-made program or assumptions about what people want. We integrate ourselves into those communities if we don’t already live there, gather everyone’s ideas, identify the most advanced of those ideas, create slogans and campaigns that build collective actions that will allow those who are advanced to win over those who are more intermediate in their understanding of things. And one repeats this process until everyone in the neighborhood is a revolutionary. This is a quick explanation of it. 

Work that uses this mass line method of building communists out of the masses is known as “mass work”. Cadre within 3RR, which is an explicitly Maoist organization, are required to do mass work as part of being members. Most do mass work within Serve the People-Pittsburgh, a revolutionary community organization that is based in Garfield and on the Northside. 

To respond to fascism when it enters working class communities, we need to be doing long and patient mass work in the spaces where we live. This is what the Black Panthers and Young Lords did.

The dominant form of politics that was at play by the organizers of the pride march was not mass line-based, in spite of many of them being from the neighborhood. This proves  incorrect the assumption that demographic categories are coherent, homogenous “communities” or “cultures”. Identity categories do not always indicate political unity or correctness of analysis, as the Kingsley Association meeting show – the organizers did not listen to the advanced Black community members there. Identity categories do not indicate political unity or correctness of analysis. Identity is not solidarity. The violent domination and subordination we face on the basis of our race, gender, and sexuality do not magically create a shared political vision. But it is true that the uneven impact of oppression across society creates the conditions for the diffuse emergence of groups organizing on the basis of common experience, analysis, and traits. What isn’t excusable is pushing a politics which places shared cultural identity at the center of analysis of oppression, as juxtaposed against revolutionary organizing against forms of oppression which impact members of oppressed nations and gendered people unevenly from white people.

So while reverence is paid by the organizers to the Panthers, there was no revolutionary political program pushed, no collecting the ideas of the masses — in fact, they completely ignored them, as the dismissed straw poll shows. All that was important was symbolic demands for increased cultural sensitivity, demands that white people “do something”, and a commitment to one-sided “dialogue” with a white power structure. For all the veneration of Black Panther iconography and rhetoric, there was little talk of what that looked like. 

If gentrification, police violence, capitalism, and imperialism is to end, we're going to need a lot more than that. We need to build towards a revolutionary communist party, a people’s army (without a people’s army the people have nothing), and a united front led by the Party. We need to engage in mass line work to struggle here and how for the creation of proletarian dual power and to “cadre-fy” the masses, i.e. to make more communists. 

Our work in the Red Bloc and partisan unit, as well as our sustained mass work in Pittsburgh, shows us that Pittsburgh is fertile soil for revolutionary politics and programs.  

We must dare to struggle, dare to win!

The masses are the makers of history!

Light the fires of communism in the hills of Pittsburgh!

— Three River Reds

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Statement of Declaration of Three River Reds

There is a 21st century communism, and it’s called Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! 

Let’s light the fires of communism in the hills of Pittsburgh!


There are big pigs, and there are little pigs. Peduto and the Pittsburgh Dems sell our neighborhoods and homes out from under us with their gentrifying developer partners, while the Trump/Pence-Endorsing Pittsburgh police creeps, terrorizes, threatens us, locks us away at whim in the death-trap called the Allegheny County Jail. Little pigs and big pigs. 

But then, there are the people. Pittsburgh will go either to the people or to the pig. The NGOs, the legal-left, and the bosses’ state can’t and won’t help us — look at the do-nothing Citizen’s Police Review Board (zero convictions against pigs in the entirety of its existence) or the so-called socialist parties who only organize rallies and sell newspapers: rallies and radical literature are wonderful, but they’re only one small part of building people’s power. Isolated from the masses, who are the real makers of history, they can do next to nothing. 

The big pigs, the little pigs, and the sell-out NGOs and do-nothing legal-left have only false or temporary solutions. They can’t get drugs or police and dealer violence out of our neighborhoods, or permanently keep lead out of our drinking water, or get us accessible healthy food (fuck Whole Foods). 

We need to be willing and also able to struggle, we need to dare to win! 

We CAN build our power until we’re able to shut down ICE kidnappings, crush white supremacist police terror, destroy abusers in our communities, and punish creepy shit bosses and manager-collaborators. 

The masses are the real heroes. Any revolutionary communist must first recognize this, must recognize that an orientation towards the activist scene and its petit-bourgeois class character is a do-nothing strategy, a losing strategy. Sincere communists and revolutionists must orient themselves towards the masses, must learn from them and in turn teach them — this is called the mass line, and to practice it makes us Maoists.






Lal Salam!